Who Invented the Electric Blanket? (Invention Timeline Explained)

Heated blankets are a great necessity in many parts of the world, especially in America, where winter could be cruel. You could not undermine their value in keeping people warm as they snuggle to sleep from way back until today.

It is quite interesting to know that electric blankets were started at the onset of the 20th century, before World War II, to provide comfort mainly for invalid patients. Afterward, they developed it for everyday use by ordinary people so they, too, could enjoy the comfort and warmth that embraces you to a good night’s sleep.

Who invented the first electric blanket?

Samuel Irwin Russell is an American doctor credited for the invention of the first electric blanket, introduced in 1912. It may be far from today’s models, but it indeed started the spark of how they came to be.

When they made the first electric blanket, it was primarily meant for invalid patients who needed warmth as part of their therapy. Not long after that, in 1921, they used it at tuberculosis sanitariums. Since patients are prescribed lots of fresh air and are likely to sleep outdoors, they need electric blankets to stay warm. That’s how electric blankets started to dress up with a new and improved design.

The electric blanket’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Samuel Irwin Russell
    Inventor of the first electric blanket

    Doctor Russel devised the first electric blanket to help his ill patients, particularly those who have a disability, to stay warm. He developed it with electrical wires covered in insulated metal tapes. But unlike the modern electric blanket, in which you could snuggle with, the first unit was designed to remain under the bed, instead of on top of it.

  • George Crowley
    Refinement for electric blanket model

    Navy engineer and inventor George Crowley worked with General Electric Co. for WWII technical projects. He developed heated flying suits and later decided that he could use the same material to make electric blankets. His version is the type you could get under, and it has separate thermostat control that responds to room temperature. It was among over 80 patents associated with Mr. Crowley. When he died at age 80 due to pneumonia, he had another patent for electric blankets on the pipeline, which would automatically switch off when overheated. He hoped to offer this device to Japanese manufacturers but was unable to. However, Crowley’s basic design remained a standard for manufacturing electric blankets for over fifty years.

When was the electric blanket invented?

Doctor Samuel Irwin Russell invented the first electric blanket in 1912. He was a physician and an inventor who patented a device that heated the bed and placed it under the mattress. He designed it to help his ill patients, especially those who are invalids, to sleep in comfort.

A brief history of electric blankets

During the early 1900s, there were literary references to heated blankets through a report written by American writer Lauren Ingalls Wilder. She shared something about sleeping with a hot rock on her feet to keep her from freezing.

However, it was not until 1912 that they made the earliest model of this unique warming mattress. The making of electric blankets started with the idea of physician/inventor Simon Irwin Russell. He designed a bedding device to keep the bed warm so his patients could enjoy the warmth and comfort sleeping in. The ‘under blanket’ was huge, heavy, and many considered dangerous.

By 1921, Russell’s heated blankets had gained popularity among tuberculosis sanitariums. But, like anything that attracts attention, intents to improve the design also came forward.

It was not until George C. Crowley came into the picture that the ‘over blankets,’ or one that is designed for people to snuggle with, came forward. His electric blanket design, introduced in the 1930s, lies on top of the sleeping person to keep them warm for personal and medicinal purposes. Unfortunately, such electric blankets used to be a fire hazard with their high voltage and flammable materials. But the modern models have significantly improved in all aspects to keep up with the demands of the times.

The electric blanket timeline

  1. 1912
    The invention of the first electric blanket

    American doctor Simon Irwin Russell created the first heating device for beddings to help provide comfort to his patients, especially the invalids. It was designed to go under the mattress so the sleeper could enjoy warmth through the night.

  2. 1921
    The electric blanket in tuberculosis sanitariums

    Electric blankets started getting more attention, prescribed at tuberculosis sanitariums to aid patients with some warmth when they have to sleep routinely outdoors.

  3. 1936
    The first electric blanket with thermostat control was invented

    They used the original design patented by Navy engineer and inventor George C. Crowley as the inspiration for the modern electric blankets. It has a thermostat control that turns on and off based on the room temperature. This model improved through the years to keep up with every current demand.

  4. 1946
    The first electric blanket was sold on the market

    The first electric blanket was sold in the US at $39.50. However, it was not called an electric blanket yet, but mostly was referred to as a heated quilt or warming pad.

  5. 1950
    Electric blankets were sold as electric blankets

    The models sold in the market then were now aptly referred to as electric blankets in both US and Canada.

  6. 1984
    Manufacturers made thermostat-less electric blankets

    The modern electric blanket of this time could respond to both body and room temperatures through a coefficient wiring system.

  7. 2001
    Electric blankets are powered with a shutoff mechanism to avoid overheating

    Inventor Crowley had planned to power up his electric blanket design with a safety feature against overheating. But he died of pneumonia on January 15, 2000, at age 80, while his patent for the automatic shutoff was pending. But such a feature came around 2001.

Where was the electric blanket invented?

The first electric blanket was invented in America by Samuel Irwin Russell, a physician and inventor who decided heated bedding would help patients to recuperate faster.

The importance of the electric blanket

  • The origin of the modern electric blanket

    The earliest model of an electric blanket is not one you could snuggle with but something to help you warm up the bed. But it was helpful, still for providing comfort and, at times, for medicinal purposes.

  • The modern rendition is still a fantastic device

    The electric blanket designed by George C. Crowley in the 1930s remains the inspiration for modern models used until today. It is basically two layers of fabric with an electric coil stuffing, which you can plug into a wall and powered with device control and automatic shutoff sensors.

  • Technology goes hand in hand with the progress

    The modern electric blanket may still use the same patented design from the 1930s. Still, it has since seen improvements, especially regarding controls that supposedly make it a safety hazard for households.

  • It is a constantly evolving device

    Now that electric blankets are seeing a comeback in the market, they are constantly developed to provide the ultimate comfort with a few features, like helping households save on utility bills. They are also made available in plush designs and plush microfiber material.

The electric blanket by the numbers

  • 4.5 While it may not be an automatic necessity for every household, many believers enjoy the comfort of electric blankets to aid their sleep. Approximately 4.5 million units are sold in the United States alone annually.
  • 1920Electric blankets were introduced for commercial use, particularly at tuberculosis sanitariums in 1920.
  • 1930Around 1930, the electric blankets were commercially produced and used as a luxury bedroom item or a fine feature of a sick room.
  • 20-30 The blanket shell has a series of channels (20 to 30 hollow tubes) lined head-to-foot and woven together as a piece of cloth.
  • 850,000By the year 2000, electric blanket sales increased to 850,000, according to the Winterwarm Company. It ignited a couple more changes, from thinner wires to brighter colors and patterns to a younger feel.
  • 18-34 Studies showed that about 48 percent of electric blanket users were from th age 18 to 24 bracket, as opposed to the common impression that older generations used it.

Five facts about the electric blanket

  • Electric blankets are made of polyester fleece or fabric

    People commonly appreciate electric blankets for their heating element, but they are really comfortable snuggling into them. They are soft and plush.

  • Multiple settings and temperature control

    Not everyone has the same heating requirement. That’s why electric blankets have multiple settings that allow users to adjust the heat to their liking. In addition, some units made for two sleepers often have dual remotes so they can change the settings accordingly.

  • Cord length is an important consideration before you buy

    Electric blankets are plugged in and should have sufficient cord length to reach the bed without a struggle.

  • Electric blankets are washable

    Electric blankets are attached with care instructions you must follow closely when washing them. Yes, they are washable. However, you must remove the electric components before sending them to the laundry.

  • Use electric blankets safely

    To avoid the supposed safety hazards, you must take note of a few reminders regarding electric blanket use. First, you should keep it flat to prevent heat buildup. Second, you must never put anything on top because it traps the heat and damages the coils. Lastly, never turn it on when not in use, and if possible, get a newer unit with an automatic shutoff control to enjoy maximum safety.

FAQs about the electric blanket

  • What’s the best type of electric blanket?

    With the blast of electric blanket models available in the market, it is hard to pinpoint which is the best. It is basically a personal choice. What’s important is you can avail of the features that perfectly suit your needs—both in heating and sleeping comfort.

  • How long does an electric blanket usually last?

    Electric blankets typically have a lifespan of at least ten years. But you have to care for it and use it properly.

  • How can I tell when I need a new electric blanket?

    A sign that you need to get a new one is uneven heating or if your blanket has discoloration in some parts, which signifies internal burning.

  • What are some of the best electric blanket brands today?

    There are various electric blanket choices in the market, and they are made for every type of need—from providing warmth to those who sleep cold to helping cut down utility bills to allowing homeowners extra coziness. The best picks include Woolrich Heated Plush to Berber Blanket. But in terms of budget, your best choice is Bedsure Heated Blanket. Both are available on Amazon.

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